Old Dixie Highway
The Dixie Highway, when conceived was the equivalent of our interstate
system today. In fact I-75 could be though of as the modern replacement for
its route. When finished it stretched from Miami to Ontario, a distance of
5,700 miles with connectors to it all along the way. An enterprising Yankee,
Carl Edward Fisher, who was a backer of the Lincoln Highway and
Indianapolis Speedway, had thoughts of the system in 1914. In April 1915
the Dixie Highway Association was formed and by May the plans were laid
out to have two mainlines. By June it was underway. By 1916 Michigan had
joined the Dixie Highway Association and started extending the east line
into Canada. All of this was done in two years, or about the time it takes our
modern bureaucrats to plan a coffee break.
In Florida it started at Florida City just south of Miami and worked its way
up through Polk, Taylor and Leon Counties. In Leon County it was what we
now know as Thomasville Road or US 319. While working for Horseshoe
Plantation I remember seeing photos of the then new “Dixie Highway” in
the “Big House” albums. Ironically the “Dixie Highway” runs through
numerous “Yankee Plantations” in both Florida and Georgia. The highway
system likely used existing roads that were then improved for automobile
traffic. The Thomasville /Tallahassee road dates back before the war. I
knew the location of two hand dug wells beside the old road that provided
water for the stagecoach line. The recent improvements to US 319N may
have brought about the old wells demise. In 1927 a monument to General
Robert E. Lee was placed beside the Dixie Highway in North Leon County.
At the dedication Ohio returned Florida’s Confederate flags that they had
captured during the war. Over the years the monument was removed and
thought lost. Thanks to Commander Bob Hurst and the ladies of the UDC it
was located, reinstalled and rededicate. Today it stands near the state line
beside the “Dixie Highway.” (US 319)
As with the old stage coach wells, once important things are changed,
discarded and too soon forgotten; so it is with the name “Dixie Highway.” A
name that was known by millions in now known to just a few. The name
took its biggest hit when the government went to a highway numbering
system. Abandonment and realignment around towns contributed also.
Over the years the red and white signs with the big DH were replaced by US
highway signs. If you traveled from Miami to Chicago today, retracing the
“Dixie Highway” route, you would follow eighteen US highway numbers.
Small sections of the old road can still be found in some parts of Florida.
Would it have been great if someone had made a TV series and written a
song about “Dixie Highway” instead of “Route 66?”
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